About Chemo

There were two things I dreaded about having chemotherapy. One was the nausea – it’s a pretty well known… almost an infamous side effect. And the other was losing my hair… again a fairly publicly visible outcome.

The first has proved relatively manageable. The hospital wants you to be able to function as normally as possible and they dosed me up on steroids and gave me two other kinds of drugs to take home to manage the nausea. On top of that, a good friend who started her chemo about six weeks before me, gave me some excellent advice. She said not eating makes the nausea worse. It is critical to keep eating. Luckily I had some evidence to support this. After my PET scan (for reasons I don’t quite know), I felt horribly nauseous. When my husband came to pick me up, I was very fragile and just wanted to lie still and concentrate on not being sick. Luckily, my husband persuaded me to eat something. His logic was that I’d had two weird meals (no fat or carbs) and then fasted for six hours. Chances are, I was hungry. It seemed reasonable and so I battled my instinct and nibbled very cautiously through a piece of Vegemite toast (yes, some people do like Vegemite.. ESPECIALLY when sick). It worked. The nausea didn’t magically disappear but it abated significantly and the experience made me realize that eating was not my enemy. So, when I got home after my first chemo session, I was determined to eat. And my friend proved absolutely right. The moment I feel a bit green, I get myself a snack and it really helps. Note: I definitely use the drugs as well. I’m not soloing on food!!

The weird thing, that isn’t so well portrayed on all the movies about people having chemotherapy, is that your tastes and your stomach are doing pretty bizarre things. The chemo can cause either constipation or diarrhea so you feel like you’re on this balancing wire of fibre intake. In addition, you get a weird metallic taste in your mouth which totally messes with your taste buds. Meat is pretty foul (I guess because of the iron in it?). On Saturday I spent significant effort making myself a chicken noodle soup. I was craving a salty light soup and this is what came to mind. As I pulled the chicken apart, it smelled delicious. But when I got to actually eating it, eating the chicken was like eating rubber. I didn’t enjoy it at all (luckily my son did). That was a huge disappointment. Since then, I asked my husband to buy in some instant noodles. They aren’t healthy but they’re such a strong salty flavour and have that hot soupiness. They drown out the horrible chemo taste and are strangely comforting. A nurse at the hospital recommended strong sweet flavours as being commonly popular. So I have also been enjoying regular cups of hot Ribena (remember, it’s winter here so hot is good).

So that’s fear number one.

I haven’t really dealt with fear number two yet – the hair loss. I think I have about a week left with my own hair. The thought of being bald is completely terrifying to me. I have never liked my ears and know that I have at least one big skin tag on my skull which is unlikely to look pretty. Also, bald women (instead of reminding me of heroes of feminism like Sinead O’Connor) just remind me of witch hunts and being burned at the stake and concentration camps. My head is so stupid. There was a young girl in the hospital having chemotherapy and she looked beautiful in her baldness. She could totally have been an ad for it. But she deserves to look beautiful. Fancy going through this crap at her age.

Anyway, so I have to go wig shopping. That will be confronting.

So all I’m saying is, it’s not what I expected. And in a lot of ways I’m hugely relieved. If I have a phobia, it’s vomiting. But it’s very much more complicated than I realized (even although I have interrogated people who have been through it). And when people talk about how tired it makes you…. I had NO idea. On Sunday, walking down the hall and back made me feel shaky and weak. All I wanted was to lie with my eyes shut. No hope of reading anything. No desire, to be honest. Just breathing was perfectly sufficient. Well, that wasn’t possible on Sunday as we had a little girl with an important birthday to celebrate. But luckily my husband and the grandparents stepped in and made everything happen for her. And I was just there – a kind of droopy shadow Mum. I think she had a great day, even so. Thank goodness for a wonderful husband and family!!

Oh my goodness… the number of times I have said thank you in the last week!!! I mean, last night, my husband made stuffed capsicums for dinner. They were exquisite! What a hero!

Anyway, so today I am taking it easy so that I have the energy to pick the kids up from school and take them to their music lessons. I usually love Wednesday afternoons as the music school seems to be a congregation point for people I have known from all different stages of the kids’ lives. It feels so nice to be in a community and know all these people. I had quite a peripatetic childhood and early adulthood so it’s taken me a long while to realize how awesome it is to just stay in one place and let a network form.

Here’s my drawing from this morning – taken from a bunch of National Geographic magazines an experienced friend dropped around – knowing how vague one’s brain is. She said “Just look at the pictures. Sometimes it’s all you can manage.” How right she was.

30 thoughts on “About Chemo

  1. It’s a beautiful drawing.

    I’m sure you’ll find a perfect wig, too.

    This was actually written before reading what you have just posted, and the hair reference (symbolic as it is) was not written with that intent…

    but it’s a new piece that I hope will serve as the best gift I have to give right now, and a the thoughts you leave here…

    When I stop the vehicle,
    kill the little engine
    and let the rain take over,

    little pebble droplets hit the windscreen –

    and just for that moment,
    before they splash themselves back into water
    and shapeshift themselves away,

    I wonder
    if I can build a cairn with raindrops,
    twine-weave them
    like rope shoots to the sky…

    hanging the wrong way.

    Upside down, they are –
    much
    like a garden,
    abseiling all the way out of love…

    hanging upwards

    and pretending to make sense
    of
    every hair that never quite felt mine to play with…

    to braid…

    just like yours,

    drifting softly from the this sleight of brightness in my hand.

    I miss the way you turned my world –

    a handstand
    in a snowglobe

    and a gravity shift from somewhere up there…

    like an intimate need out of everywhere.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps to have some understanding for when, I’m sure, I’ll know others going through it or could even go through it myself. I’m glad you have supportive family and friends. I do like your frog drawing. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When my blood sugar gets low I get more nauseous so it makes sense you need to eat to feel better. Sounds like you have a great husband and will get through this with your family’s support. Keep writing and drawing as you are so talented in both areas! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this, I am sure it will help many people who are facing chemo and don’t know what to expect. It’s one of those things people don’t talk about enough. I hope you are doing well and giving yourself lots of love. The drawing is beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are very brave to be sharing this with us.
    It is good to be able to get friendly advice from people who have been through it.
    Your sketches are super, and we look forward to more of them.
    Me, Mrs H and Dauphy send you πŸ’– and best wishes.
    Anyone who likes Vegemite is capable of anything! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Vegemite is my go to for getting food in when unwell or not in the mood to eat. Bickfords Lemon Barley cordial may be good too. I have that when I have to not eat but can have fluids.
    Don’t worry about the hair thing, it will only make your hair fall out. At least it’s Winter and a beanie will be the trend. Stay strong. Your blog family are here with you ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thanks for sharing this, Worms; the really joyful thing is that creativity will always find an outlet; if one avenue is blocked. another opens up ; and I find your drawings warm and engaging πŸ™‚ I admire your courage and honesty πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hello,

    I just wanted to say that it’s nice that you have a kind nature and your words also, and your ability to keep challenging yourself and picking up on all the great things in life is wonderful and I appreciate your perspective of the world.

    Regarding the frog:
    I like how your lines aren’t completely straight because of your technique and it looks more natural this way. It reminds me of how my father draws. Really cool. πŸ™‚

    Perhaps you’ll like your wig.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, raymews! What a lovely little message to receive!! I am very lucky to have wonderful people around me to help me stay positive… or at least grateful. πŸ™‚ Regarding the frog, I love your feedback! I did some art classes a few years ago. The teacher was very adamant that you don’t draw outlines or you end up with cartoons. And when you look, you don’t see outlines either. Edges are largely fuzzy. So drawing has become this lovely deep observance of light and shadow. It’s such a present thing. But writing is my main focus. I only discovered I had any ability to draw at all after having kids. But I am more of a copier. I’m not a creative artist.

      Liked by 1 person

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